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introduction Dexter Gordon Gets Around Of the many African American writers who elected to make a new home in Europe in the years following World War II, James Baldwin kept perhaps the closest ties to the music world. Blues and gospel remained major sources of inspiration for him, and he was a jazz buff too. He had been living in Paris for quite a while already when he authored “Sonny’s Blues,” the story that would become a “standard” of jazz literature, as well as Another Country, a novel featuring a drummer named Rufus Scott. When yet another newspaper article appeared on the phenomenon of black American expatriates abroad, he noti fied a more recent transplant, tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, but the newcomer averred that he was irritated by that term: “I’m not ex-anything.” As he later elaborated, “I had not thought of myself as being ‘expatriate.’ I didn’t originally come to stay—as some cats have. When I came, it was just to make a gig.”1 The conversation—and disagreement—between the novelist Baldwin and the saxophonist Gordon in some ways repudiated Blue Note’s marketing plan for the musician: for jazz’s most iconic record label, Dexter Gordon was, as one of their album covers touted, Our Man in Paris after all, flanked on that particular outing by fellow “expats” Kenny Clarke and Bud Powell as well as Frenchman Pierre Michelot.2 The music, too, availed itself of the genre’s inherent transnationalisms: the album from which this book borrows its title was recorded in 1965, three years after the native Californian had relocated to Europe: Gettin’ Around incorporates diverse influences, from Brazilian bossa 10 introduction nova (Luiz Bonfà’s “Manhã de Carnaval”) to French chanson (the original composition “Le Coiffeur”), and therefore also constitutes a reminder that jazz has always already been transnational. Once again, Blue Note clearly sought to capitalize on Gordon’s European sojourn with the album’s title and with the cover, which shows the lanky Gordon sporting a beret and straddling a bicycle. The European connection was a natural one to make for the label, which after all had been founded back in 1939 by two refugees from Germany, Francis Wolff and Alfred Lion. And even though almost all of the label’s output during its heyday, including Gettin’ Around, was recorded in Rudy Van Gelder’s famed Englewood Cliffs studio in New Jersey, a transnational resonance was always present. Musicians fondly remember Wolff casually leaning against the wall in the control room, snapping his fingers, tapping his foot, and, if he gave his clients any musical direction at all, instructing them in his hard, German accent, “We must find the groove! It must shving!”3 Blue Note’s philosophy also underscores that Gordon’s music remained firmly rooted in the African American jazz tradition, and so musically speaking at least, Gordon was correct—he wasn’t “ex-anything.” Neither was the style of his European colleagues, for that matter. In this respect, his preferred pianist of the period, Spaniard Tete Montoliu, was a congenial partner for the American in Europe. As far as the blind pianist was concerned, Catalan sardanes weren’t really all that different from hard-charging bebop: “basically we Catalonians are all black,” he maintained.4 But Long Tall Dexter’s highly individual style provides an ideal template for this study also because the tenorist always aspired to give expression to a “‘story’ feeling” in his improvisations.5 Dex liked to quote, but quotes very often were the launching pad for motivic development within the solo as a whole. Far from musical cutesies, these were often planned ahead of the actual performance, as he also liked to do with cadenzas or solo introductions. One of the staples in Gordon’s repertoire of the time was the standard “Three O’Clock in the Morning,” and the tenorist frequently liked to interweave a quote from “Take Me out to the Ballgame” into his solos; he was also an avid baseball fan and followed his beloved New York Mets wherever he was. So when he found himself in Stockholm being accompanied by an all-Swedish pickup group, probably no one among the adoring listeners in the audience or the starstruck musicians on the bandstand was familiar with America’s national pastime, even if they did recognize the melody. But the musical quote will seem less incongruous or accidental if we recall that 3 a...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780820354347
Related ISBN
9780820354354
MARC Record
OCLC
1065536873
Pages
200
Launched on MUSE
2018-12-06
Language
English
Open Access
No
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